PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

Why try too hard to impress?

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I like to make references to football because it was my first real education. As a kid playing in different teams, I was made to understand football teaches one so much about life – the essence of hard work, team work, dedication, determination and zeal to achieve one’s goal.

My coaches helped me understand that football, as a sport, allows me make use of my three brains (the right, the left and subconscious). As a consequence, I was equipped with indelible capabilities such as attention to detail and maintaining focus on my goal.

If a player, whether amateur or professional, can maintain his focus, he has attained a certain level of maturity. This seems easy on paper but it is very hard to maintain focus with fans/girls screaming your name. Personally, I learnt this the hard way.

I invited a beautiful girl (I was interested in at the time) to a football match. During the first half of the game, I couldn’t concentrate on the team’s goal – to win the game. I was keen to impress the young lady with my dribbling skills and by halftime we were one goal down. I got an earful from my teammates for my below-par performance and that was my wake-up call. I was apologetic, remorseful and went into the second half more focused. We ended up winning the game 3-1 with yours faithfully grabbing a brace.

This made me ask myself, why do we even do things to impress others and put unnecessary pressure on ourselves? I believe it is human nature to want to impress others. However, when one consciously tries to do so, it becomes a burden to oneself.

Even though we are reluctant to admit, the desire to impress others motivates our lives. There are many things we do because they seem cool and thence lead to societal acceptance. The clothes we wear, the way we speak, the genre of music we listen to, the movies we watch, the religious beliefs we embrace, the technology devices we use, the beard we keep, the places we hang out, the friends we keep and the careers we choose are heavily influenced by the desire to impress others.

Unfortunately, sustainability of these behaviours is often elusive. In a digital world, things are constantly evolving and changing. And things that impress people today will probably not impress them tomorrow. As a result, we put on a show and run ourselves into debt, get stuck with people and jobs we hate, and envy those who seem to have it all.

Vernon Howard succinctly explained this when he said “The need to impress others causes half the world’s woes.”  The funniest thing about being an ‘impresario’ is that most of the things we do are for those that don’t give a fuck about us. Pardon my French.

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Many mistakenly assume that they have to do big things to impress others however it is the little things that leave the biggest impact on us. According to Zinga Theory, if one has to try so hard to impress another person then the ‘impressee’ is probably not worth it and can’t be bothered.

I sincerely believe the worst person to date/marry is an ‘impressario/wannabe’. It is hard for such people to be satisfied and happy because of the pressure they put on themselves to meet up to expectations. Expectations they created in the first place.

Everybody can’t like you so instead of living your life to impress people who don’t really like you, you should channel that energy into being yourself.

Over-expectation, a recipe for disaster

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It is quite astonishing how sports are linked to our every day lives https://arturozinga.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/footballs-life-lessons-part-1/ https://arturozinga.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/footballs-life-lessons-part-2/ This past weekend, the best TV series, the English Premier League (EPL) returned to our TV screens for the 24th season. Prior to its premiere, there was a lot of fanfare worldwide. Every fan predicted how the season premiere would shape up.

Chelsea fans, brimming with confidence, were so keen for their team to kickstart the defence of their EPL crown whilst Arsenal fans, based on their team’s recent acquisition of World class goalkeeper Petr Cech and pre-season heroics, believe this season will finally be theirs. As a result, some predicted a 6-0 trashing for their teams against their first opponents Swansea City and West Ham United respectively. However, their expectations weren’t met and their teams were surprised by these less fancied teams.

Just like these football fans, how often do we over-expect and put so much emphasis on positivity? When do we come to know that we are expecting something impossible?

It is natural for one to have expectations; expectations play a huge role in our lives. We all have personal goals and visions; how our lives should be in 10-20 years from now, how our personal relationships should be, how our favourite sports team should play or how we should be rewarded for our efforts and thence expectations are synonymous with the word should.

In all honesty, when there’s love, there will be expectations. Whether it is love between a child and the parents, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend or a fan and his/her favourite celebrity/sports club, there will always be expectations in any kind of love. In other words, we depend and expect so much from the others. Robert Greene wrote in his book, The 50th Law, “Dependency is a habit that is so easy to acquire…It is hard to resist. But once you give in, it is like a prison you enter that you cannot ever leave.”

Expectations have a huge effect on our emotions; they can make you happy as well as rob your happiness. We set the tone for disaster when we over-expect thereby creating toxic relationships and consequently, expectations kill love. Over-expectation is hard to define but it creates a perfect recipe for disaster.

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Everyone in the world is governed by self-interest. We expect people to follow our own rules and principles, and share our values, dreams and experiences. We tend to expect more from others in comparison to what we actually have to offer. There is a wide gap between our expectations and supply but many love to disregard this fact and focus on getting the best. For example, everyone has a list of features s/he expects his/her dream partner to possess but just a few actually work on themselves to be that perfect somebody we all desire.

Nonetheless, it is a fact that one cannot run away from expectations but it is important to set these expectations around reality. The reality of life is that none of us came into this world with a crystal ball so twists and turns are a natural part of life.

Realists are not scared to embrace the hard truths (twists and turns) of life; they weigh both positive and negative sides of everything life throws at them. The best option for one is to embrace reality and lower his/her expectations.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Finding Balance Fun and Focus

Ecclesiates 3:1 – To all things there is an appointed time, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Striking a balance between fun and focus can be a herculean task. Sometimes we prioritize work/school and focus solely on results/grades/achievements, forgetting the real world out there for us to explore and have fun. On the contrary, some give little attention to school/work because they believe their social life trumps every aspect of their lives.

Problems arise when one neglects other important areas of his/her life. You may lose friends and family if you preoccupy yourself with school/work but may also be taken less seriously if you largely focus on fun. These areas, if not balanced, will negatively influence your success and happiness. Balance between focus and fun is key to a happy successful life.

At a very young age, I was made to understand that a child educated only at school is an uneducated child. The advice I received still echo in my head – “As you pass through the school; try and allow the school to pass through you.”

Fun, including personal relationships, is essential to one’s general health, wellbeing and optimal functioning. The health of your focus/fun balance depends on the quality of your relationships.

If you have been opportune to be part of a Sports team, you’d notice every coach sets aside days for his team to socialise and bond together. In Ecclesiastes 9:7, King Solomon implored Christians to have a little fun, “Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Teachers also advice their students to take some time off and have fun to refresh their minds, lower their stress levels and renew their focus.

Emotions have a huge effect on an individual’s health – whether physical, mental or social health. Emotional wellbeing can affect your academic, professional and personal success.

It is important to set goals and be passionate about them but we need to balance all kinds of things in our lives. Before you can be the real you, you ought to have a balanced life. Finding a balance in everything that you do allows you to live a balanced life and enjoy the best of both worlds.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your views on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Football’s Life Lessons II

16. Under rated people find life easy, they surprise everyone when they do well but over rated people are always under intense pressure and are often criticised for every wrong move they make. Google Freddy Adu.

17. Listening to renowned commentators like Martin Tyler can aid your vocabulary.

18. Karma is a bitch, just make sure that bitch is beautiful. Our past come back to haunt us one way or the other. Sunderland’s appointment of Paolo Di Canio as manager has caused an uproar because of his fascist salutes/political views in the past.

19. Drugs, alcohol and women can ruin you. Diego Maradona (drugs), Paul Gascoigne (alcohol) and George Best (alcohol & women) all ruined their careers.

20. Money can’t buy happiness. Robert Enke and Gary Speed committed suicide after succumbing to depression.

21. A leader is a person who leads by example and not words of mouth. Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard led by example in the 2005 UCL final against AC Milan, having started the game in midfield, he shifted to the right back position in the extra time of the match to send the game to penalties, which his team won.

22. Don’t be a quitter. Ronaldo de Lima suffered recurrent knee injuries in the early 2000s. Prior to the 2002 world cup, he didn’t a play part in Inter Milan’s season but went on to win the Golden boot and World Cup with Brazil that year. He also won the FIFA World footballer of the year award that same year.

23. Team work supersedes individualism. Chelsea won the 2012 Champions League not because they were the best team but because they worked hard as a team.

24. No knowledge is a waste. In 2012, 21-year old, Vugar Guloglan oglu Huseynzade was named as coach of Azerbaijani club, FC Baku based on his experience of playing the computer game, Football Manager. He beat former European footballer of the year, Jean-Pierre Papin to the job.

25. Hard work will always beat talent, if talent doesn’t work hard. Nani is more talented than Antonio Valencia but Valencia’s work ethic is impressive thus he’s kept Nani out of the team for most of the campaign.

26. Don’t underrate anybody, everybody has something to offer. Monaco & FC Porto surprised everybody when they beat G-14 clubs to reach the final of UCL in 2004.

27. Proper planning makes decision making process a lot easier. A strategic plan is usually developed for every opponent. This plan is developed after careful examination of their strengths and weaknesses. The experience gotten from this plan, whether successful or not would be useful in subsequent matches.

28. Be flexible to change. Sir Alex Ferguson is an epitome of flexibility to change; he’s gone from 4-4-2 that won him the treble in 1999 to 4-5-1 in 2001 to 4-3-3 in 2008 to 4-2-3-1 in 2013. This has helped him wrestle the EPL title from the likes of Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Arsene Wenger.

29. Always have a substitute or back plan. I’m yet to see a season Sir Alex Ferguson has played without four recognised strikers in his squad. When one or two strikers aren’t performing at an optimal level, the others are thrown into the game.

30. Everybody remembers the winner, nobody remembers the person in second position. When a goal is scored, nobody remembers the player with the killer pass but the scorer.